Posts tagged with "interblog" - Faerye Net 2011-03-18T10:41:06+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Blog recommendation: MFA in a Box 2011-03-18T10:41:06+00:00 2011-03-18T15:49:50+00:00 <p>My first advisor in <a href="" target="links">graduate school</a> had a huge influence on me. I had several fabulous teachers in the program, but working with <a href="" target="links">John Rember</a> set the foundation of my writing life. He got me to state with confidence &#8220;I&#8217;m a writer&#8221; and taught me that being a writer is a <a href="" target="internal">continuous state of being and seeing</a>, not something you just do when you write. The books I read at his behest and discussed with him in my correspondence semester helped give definition and certainty to things I had felt as instinct and hunch: things about the importance of writing, writing as survival strategy, writing as making meaning.</p> <p>John&#8217;s craft talks at the program were also rich and valuable. They were the sort of lecture where you scribble notes intensely, and you can&#8217;t keep up with all of it that you want to get down, and you also want to be writing your own notes about all the things in your own writing and life that hook into what he&#8217;s saying, all the ideas this gives you. Luckily, many of the rich, layered craft talks that he wrote for the Pacific program are now available to me in a more complete and much more legible format than my own scribbles: printed essays in book.</p> <p><a href='' rel='powells-9780982579428'><img src='' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px;' align="left" title='More info about this book at (new window)' style='border: 0px; margin-right:5px'></a>John has written a writing book, <em><a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780982579428'><span class="caps">MFA</span> in a Box</a></em>, which I am reading. To be honest, I&#8217;m reading it very slowly. That may sound like an odd endorsement, but it&#8217;s an honest one. I started reading the book on the plane to a convention. Every chapter is an essay, one of those rich interconnected thought-weavings that we got to listen to as Pacific students, with the addition of a top ten list at the end of each &#8212; valuable for focus and review, but also often funny. I found, reading on the plane, that when I was done with the first essay, I didn&#8217;t want to read the second. I wanted to write. So I dug out my carry-on and switched activities. On the plane ride home? Same thing. One essay, and then writing.</p> <p>Obviously, this is a rare writing book. I have read quite a few, and I don&#8217;t remember any of them making me want to write <em>that moment</em> like this does. The cover says it&#8217;s &#8220;a <em>Why</em> to Write Book&#8221;, and the evidence says it&#8217;s convincing.</p> <p>So the good news about John&#8217;s splendid craft talks is that you can <a href='' title='More info about this book at' rel='powells-9780982579428'>buy the book</a>, and the bonus good news is that you can <a href="" target="links">read his blog</a> while you&#8217;re waiting for the book to arrive. It&#8217;s a relatively new blog that he&#8217;s started in support of the book (hence the name!) and it is chock-full of the stuff John Rember specializes in as a teacher: thoughtful, mordant, lucid non-fiction about things which are important and hard to tackle.</p> <p>Here are some of his posts:</p> <ul> <li><a href="" target="links">Narcissism and Depth</a>, which may obviate or at least mutate two blog posts I meant to write here</li> <li><a href="" target="links">The Wannabe Writer</a>, about stopping pretending to be a writer and actually being one.</li> <li><a href="">A Writer&#8217;s Meta-Narrative</a>, about the stories everyone lives by, not just storytellers</li> </ul> <p>I don&#8217;t think I&#8217;ve ever written a blog post just to recommend another blog before. Maybe John&#8217;s blog isn&#8217;t the blog for you, if you&#8217;re not a writer or interested in writing, or don&#8217;t like hard questions. But I am so glad it&#8217;s there, that someone with so much experience and so much willingness to examine it honestly is sharing in this way. John as teacher is challenging, wise, and dryly, darkly funny. John as blogger is much the same.</p> A timely reminder: this is what we do 2010-12-03T13:28:18+00:00 2010-12-03T13:29:04+00:00 <p>I love reading James Gurney&#8217;s blog, <a href="" target="links">Gurney Journey</a>. (I think <a href="" target="links">Steve</a> tipped me to it originally? If so, thanks, Steve.) I love Gurney&#8217;s work, and I love learning about art and how it works and has worked. Also, I find a lot of cross-disciplinary pollination in the things he talks about. Sometimes it&#8217;s hard to explain how the stuff he says about painting or drawing seems very apt for writing. Sometimes it&#8217;s not.</p> <p>Here&#8217;s <a href="" target="links">Thursday&#8217;s blog post, &#8220;Mutter and Growl&#8221;</a>, about perennial Shoulders family favorite John Singer Sargent. It&#8217;s about his making a lot of noise as he worked, but here&#8217;s the part that really struck me:</p> <blockquote>Another observer noted that he talked to himself: “This is impossible,” Mr. Sargent muttered. “You can’t do it. Why do you try these things? You know it’s hopeless. It can’t be done.” <br /> <br /> Then: “Yes, it can, yes, it can, it can be done—my God, I’ve done it.”</blockquote> <p>I always feel so grateful when I find that cycle of despondency and triumph in master artists, or hear <a href="" target="links">writers whose work I really admire confess to it</a>. It&#8217;s not schadenfreude, it&#8217;s recognition: oh, this is fundamental.</p> <p>When you&#8217;re in it, you feel like the only one. Whether it&#8217;s a small cycle during one session of painting or a big long-form up-and-down, you feel trapped in the solipsistic agony of it. But you&#8217;re not alone. We&#8217;re all down there, toiling our parallel ways out of our oubliettes to stand heedless and triumphant in the light.</p> "Flabbergasted by the commonplace" 2010-11-13T08:07:13+00:00 2010-11-13T08:17:33+00:00 <p>I&#8217;ve blogged a bit of late about <a href="" target="links">observation</a>, and harvesting potentially telling details from the world about you. A longer while ago, I blogged about <a href="" target="links">&#8220;try[ing] to make the world strange again, so I can dive into it anew.&#8221;</a></p> <p>I thought <a href="">this blog post</a> was sharply relevant to all that. It&#8217;s by Stephen Kuusisto, a writer and professor attached to <a href="" target="links">the <span class="caps">MFA</span> program</a> I attended (though I&#8217;ve never worked with him, myself.) It&#8217;s about how he sees the &#8220;dreadful color&#8221; of school buses.</p> <p>How you see something is shaped by everything that came before it: who you are, the sum of your past experiences, the associations your brain forms, your mood at the moment, what you think is important or unimportant. In Steve Kuusisto&#8217;s case, it&#8217;s affected by his history with vision as well as with school buses: &#8220;I&#8217;ve been blind for for most of my life, and now that I can see a little I&#8217;m largely flabbergasted by the commonplace,&#8221; he says.</p> <p>I love this blog post because it&#8217;s so unexpected &#8211; I honestly see the color of school buses in an entirely different way that probably has to do with the color of standard #2 pencils, and not so much with failure &#8211; and also for what that unexpectedness gives me, the reader. No two people see a telling detail the same way, and the shock of seeing the school bus from someone else&#8217;s context is one of the lovely, rich displacements of reading.</p> <p>But also I love that phrase he uses: &#8220;I&#8217;m largely flabbergasted by the commonplace.&#8221; As writers, I think that would be a good state to cultivate. Our habitual, ordinary world can lull us, and stop us perceiving it or piercing it. I want to be shocked anew by the strangeness of things that have surrounded me for decades. I want to be flabbergasted by the commonplace, don&#8217;t you?</p> What is the purpose of blog comments? 2010-08-24T13:33:41+00:00 2010-08-24T13:35:05+00:00 <p>A while back, Ryan mentioned to me that he may remove the capacity to comment from his blog, <a href="" target="links"></a>. This rocked my world. No comments? But blogs have comments! It&#8217;s a universal constant! Okay, so I exaggerated there. Sure, I&#8217;ve seen comments-disabled posts, often on touchy or personal matters, on otherwise comment-enabled blogs. And I&#8217;ve visited a few blogs with no comment system. It tends to have a more&#8230;austere feeling. Like a museum, rather than a tearoom. Comments invite you to stay a while and have a scone. No comments? You are invited to move along to the next exhibit.</p> <p>Ryan tends to think things through, so he had plenty of arguments against the necessity of comments <em>for his blog</em>. His blog is increasingly about technical matters. I pointed out that people like to discuss these matters, and he pointed out that they are welcome to do so by e-mail or on twitter. If their comment is longer than 140 characters, he pointed out, they&#8217;re welcome to post it on their own blog and send him a link. Obviously, he has a point.</p> <p>Different blog spaces carry different necessities. I read a fair amount of social justice blogs, like <a href="http://racialicious" target="links">Racialicious</a> and <a href="" target="links">Feministe</a>. Part of their purpose is discussion &#8212; lively at times &#8212; and to provide a space dedicated to hashing out issues, often nominally or actually &#8220;safe&#8221; for those participating. Many major blogs of this type even have &#8220;open threads&#8221; from time to time, where the management offers no guidance on what the commentariat should mull. Obviously, these blogs are part forum.</p> <p>But my blog isn&#8217;t like that. I am glad it&#8217;s not. Writing a social justice blog means setting yourself up as an authority and giving yourself a certain responsibility to keep up with and comment on current events. That&#8217;s admirable, but it&#8217;s not the path I&#8217;ve chosen in life. I&#8217;ve chosen to be a fiction writer, which means a certain amount of dreamy detachment is part, parcel, perquisite and peril of my vocation. Some of my blog posts ask for audience participation, but some of them don&#8217;t.</p> <p>I can see some arguments against comments in general. Where the commentariat is largely people one knows, there is a sort of social pressure. If I post good news, do you have to publicly f&ecirc;te me? I like congratulations as much as the next person, but I don&#8217;t want to make anyone feel they <em>must</em> pipe up. (I&#8217;m the sort of person who tends to send off-list congratulations to on-list good news, so obviously I&#8217;m a little weird about the dynamic of clapping people on the back in front of a crowd.) In other cases, I&#8217;ve heard people talk about the social pressure of commenting &#8211; someone you don&#8217;t know or barely know comments on your blog, so you feel you have to comment on theirs.</p> <p>This brings me back to the responsibilities of blogging: I don&#8217;t want to ever be in a position where I <em>have</em> to blog about something. If something dreadful happens in the world &#8211; which happens all too often &#8211; I usually feel that my perspective on it is redundant, if not useless. I may feel stunned and wordless. Political bloggers and social justice bloggers seem to have a socially mandated duty to speak on current events. I never want to be there. Neither do I want to be committed to post everything of a certain sort in my own life &#8212; every time I make a pie, for instance (I guarantee you, while it makes useful filler here and there, that I don&#8217;t post every pie I make!). There&#8217;s too much speaking for speaking&#8217;s sake in the world. That isn&#8217;t a call for seriousness, by any means: anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I am chock-full of nonsense. What I am advocating is sincerity. Don&#8217;t blog if you don&#8217;t feel it. Don&#8217;t comment if you don&#8217;t want to (and if you do want to, don&#8217;t feel constrained!)</p> <p>And if you do want to respond to something, I hope you have the space or make the space. Ryan&#8217;s point that would-be commenters can post on their own blogs is well taken. Even in the forum-like bustle of large social justice sites, people take a step back into their own spaces and respond there. A long comment may not get much attention when it&#8217;s attached to someone else&#8217;s work. On your own blog, it has the chance to breathe, to be read on its own merits and for its own sake. Much of what we want to say in the world is a response: to someone else&#8217;s speech, yes, or to our own lives, our own experiences, to nature or culture. Maybe it would be silly to start a blog just because you wanted to comment on someone&#8217;s post and comments were locked. But maybe it will happen again, and again. Maybe you should have, if not a blog, a text document on your own computer. Even if you don&#8217;t need or want anyone else to hear, hearing yourself is vital and healthy.</p> <p>Maybe I&#8217;ll close down comments on a post here and there. I experimented with this on the most recent <a href="" target="links">update</a> on my upcoming story. Just the facts, ma&#8217;am, and no meaty topic for discussion. But upon reflection, I&#8217;ll be keeping comments open on most posts here. I like the idea of putting out tea and biscuits for all comers.</p> <p>This blog&#8217;s purpose has shifted over the years. When I began, I hoped to share a few silly anecdotes, but mostly give myself room to write and hear myself. I needed a place for words and creativity in a life that didn&#8217;t otherwise hold that space. Now my life fully inhabits those spaces, and the blog serves to share &#8212; my news, my nonsense, things that make me laugh, delight me, or make me think. It&#8217;s my blog, but I need to believe you&#8217;re a part of it. I&#8217;ll definitely be keeping comments, but I&#8217;m glad to have considered the question. Rethinking and questioning keeps blogs, as well as people, healthy.</p> My thesis as a cloud 2009-01-03T00:46:15+00:00 2009-01-03T10:11:36+00:00 <p>My friend <a href="" target="links">Robert Peake</a>, a thoughtful poet gifted in procrastination, recently turned in his <span class="caps">MFA</span> thesis and made <a href="" target="links">word clouds</a> of his critical essay and creative thesis (collection of poems, in his case), which you can see on his blog. (Clouds show each word at a size proportional to its number of uses in the text. Wordle defaults to removing dead-common words like &#8216;and&#8217;, and uses the 150 most used words unless you specify differently.) Of course I jumped at the chance to be the next to perform this act of procrastinatory genius, and plugged my opus into <a href="">Wordle</a>.</p> <p>Here is my nearly-complete story collection/complete creative thesis, <em>Sea Selves</em>, in cloud form:<br /> <a href="" title="Thesis Wordle by Eilonwy Anne, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="325" alt="Thesis Wordle" border="0"/></a></p> <p>I really liked the random font and other options Wordle chose, and the layout that came out first try, so this is exactly what Wordle pumped out, transformed only in color. I took all these shades from photos I&#8217;ve taken of the Pacific Ocean. (Pretentious? <em>Moi?</em>)</p> <p>Here is my critical essay, <em>Sea Change: Visions of the Ocean</em>, which I tweaked a little more:<br /> <a href="" title="Essay Wordle by Eilonwy Anne, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="303" alt="Essay Wordle" border="0"/></a></p> <p>If for some reason you want to look closer at either, you can click through to the Flickr page and press the &#8216;all sizes&#8217; button right above the image. My word clouds look very different from Robert&#8217;s, which is to be expected. Not only is my thesis prose, but mine is themed. I hope someone with a non-themed short story thesis tries it next to compare! There are a few words I&#8217;m slightly surprised by on my thesis word cloud, others I&#8217;m glad came through so strongly, and some which were a matter of course. And it&#8217;s interesting to see the names of characters from very different stories and worlds nestle so promiscuously together.</p> <p>For fun, here is a wordle of <em>Sea Selves</em> with 1500 words rather than 150. I think it makes clear why 150 is the default:<br /> <a href="" title="Thesis Wordle with 1500 words. by Eilonwy Anne, on Flickr"><img src="" width="500" height="282" alt="Thesis Wordle with 1500 words." border="0" /></a></p> <p>In short, I hope Robert has started a fashion. This was fun, and I hope to see other MFAers follow suit.</p> Blogrolinage 2008-08-08T13:18:09+00:00 2008-08-08T13:18:09+00:00 <p>So I finally created a <a href="" target="links">blogroll</a>. I didn&#8217;t do this for a long time because when I first started blogging, it seemed more than likely that people who were reading my blog already knew each other&#8217;s blogs. But now, after my <span class="caps">MFA</span> program, I know a lot more bloggers, so I thought I&#8217;d link them here.</p> <p>This blogroll will eventually be linked in the sidebar under Oddments, as &#8220;Friends&#8221;. I have used real names for bloggers who do so, leaving off last names or using handles by the same criterion. If you&#8217;re a bloggin&#8217; friend of mine and you are not on the list, it may be because I thought you weren&#8217;t updating any more, or because I didn&#8217;t know if linking to you would break your desired level of anonymity. These are not all the blogs I read. That list would be long, fluctuate a great deal, and involve scads of people I don&#8217;t know, let alone call &#8216;friend&#8217;. There are a few blogs I read whose authors I&#8217;ve met only in passing, but don&#8217;t really know, so those aren&#8217;t listed.</p> Where I write just now 2008-07-11T15:24:03+00:00 2008-07-11T15:25:00+00:00 <p>My friend <a href="" target="links">Alissa Nielsen</a> was inspired by <a href="" target="links">these photos of writers&#8217; rooms</a> in the <em>Guardian</em> to post her own. She asks her friends to respond in kind.</p> My offering is somewhat embarrassing; I don&#8217;t write in a proper writing room at present, or at a desk, or with books within reach. My original scheme was to have a computer desk and a writing desk, partition the two activities; but my writing desk is a family heirloom of sorts (modeled by Qubit below) and I elected to leave it with my parents rather than risk it on the move to California. <p><center><a href="" target="links"> <img src="" alt="Qubit poses on my writing desk" title="Cat, no raven, writing desk" border="0"> </a><br /></center> Thus, I am without a writing desk. Now, my computer desk has a writing surface, but since my keyboard drawer was damaged by the movers, the writing surface is for keyboards. All this did not stop me completely from writing there, but the weather has; it&#8217;s the hottest little <del>oven</del> room in the house. So this is my writing space at present: <p><center><a href="" target="links"> <img src="" alt="Nomadic writing camp" title="Nomadic writing camp" border="0"> </a><br /></center> I&#8217;ve gone nomadic. I purchased the truly awesome lapdesk when I sold my story, and it&#8217;s serving me well. You also see extra fountain pen cartridges (in the red lipstick case), a manuscript to revise, my Powerbook if I need to look something up, and in the offing, Qubit, who minced into the first photo and set up shop. <p>Is this ideal? Maybe not. But it&#8217;s airy, comfortable, and gets the job done. Maybe someday I will feel secure enough somewhere to set up a really good writing space. But with renting and moving&#8230;this works for me. Many of my stories have been worked on with less; on a knee while I wait for a ride or sit on the <span class="caps">MAX</span>. Maybe when, someday, I have a room in an upper story with boughs bending in the wind outside, my heirloom writing desk glowing with polish, bottles of ink sloshing in the drawers and a shelf of books at my left hand, I will fold my papers into my journal and tuck my glasses into a jacket pocket, and walk out the front door, roving for a place to write.</p>